Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rebuilding Our Fishery and Our Future: Glen Brooks Speaking Out

The Gulf Fishermen’s Association represents several hundred commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of the red snapper and grouper industry. We are dedicated to providing fresh domestic seafood to America’s citizens year-round in a sustainable fishery. 

We can tell America first-hand how fishing jobs were prior to implementation of our catch share programs. Our industry was eating itself alive.

The more we competed, the shorter our seasons became and the longer we had to run to catch fish. The science was right, fish stocks were declining. Shorter seasons caused greater waste, gluts of older product, lower prices, and less income.

As income dropped we fished with dilapidated boats in worse weather with less qualified crews for fewer fish. Things got so bad that a plan was developed that would eliminate more than a third of the boats in the fishery. Cheap fish worked great for the big fish houses and the Mexican fishermen who sold to them during our closures, but not so well for American fishermen.

In search of a solution, Gulf fishermen worked with the regional Fishery Management Council to develop catch share programs. Both programs were approved by more than 80 percent in referendums of reliant fishermen. 

Today, we have real jobs, year round, for the first time in many years. When we go fishing, we actually catch fish again, and are becoming profitable. We are starting to enjoy real lives, with less danger. Prices are up, and imports are down. Qualified fishermen are in demand. 

And the most incredible thing? While that is happening we are rebuilding our fisheries by avoiding overfished stocks and reducing waste. Many responsible fishermen have been able to fish for several years with near zero dead discards of overfished stocks. This would be impossible with any other program.

Fishing year-round while rebuilding the fishery is a great thing for jobs now, and in the future.

Not one single fish has been taken from anyone for our programs. We are producing better science, under discrete catch limits that are easier to enforce, with fewer wasted fish, and fishing more sustainably than ever in the history of Gulf fishery management. This benefits every fishermen and every American, yet we are amazed at some of the claims we have heard even from legislators.

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